As she ends “Sunshine City” here (and its line about “the promise of summer in early spring” feels long way a off in the freezing Black Country) Elles Bailey climbs onto the drum riser and holds her arms aloft. Her grim is as obvious as it is infectious. There’s only one conclusion to draw from this – and indeed, it was clear from the start – and it’s this: Elles Bailey is never happier, nor more at home than when she’s on stage.

She’s here – and it needs to be said from the outset that she’s here with a wonderful band – to celebrate her superb “Shining In The Half Light” album. A step up, and one that’s helped move this gig from the small room here to the main one.

Evidently as proud of it as she should be, most of the album is played in the 90 minutes she’s on stage, including the highlights “The Game” and “Stones” which as the one-two punch to start.

It’s not all about new stuff, though. Bailey says her “favourite favourite” of the her debut collection is “Perfect Storm”, which she says will transport you to Muscle Shoals. She doesn’t need to. Her sound is the latest in a long lineage of acts that wear that place proudly as an influence. Few do it as well as this, or with as much warmth.

Her 2023 band includes Manchester folk singer Demi Marriner on vocals, and she is stunning, and the relaxed feel of the show is underlined with Bailey augmenting the set with the stories behind the some of the songs, “Spinning Stopped” she reasons was about a desire for things to slow down. She’d written it in 2019. “Be careful what you wish for….” She notes here with a smile. She smiles all the time. It’s one of the best things about her shows. They are joyous.

That extends to the theme of the songs. “…Half Light’s” title track is dedicated to those “who spread love in a time of fear” while the more aggressive “Cheats And Liars” (which one reviewer had reckoned was about her ‘exes” – only if one of them was called Boris, I’d venture and Elles has way more taste….) is a change of pace, balanced by the funky “Hole In My Pocket”, the bass of Matthew Ware to the fore.

She picks her covers carefully too. John Martyn’s “Over The Hill”, CCR’s “Long As I Can See The Light” are both done with love, before a dip back to “Road I Call Home”, her second album. The rock n roll of “Medicine Man” and the anthem for humanity, “Help Somebody” are both excellent before “Riding Out The Storm” – perhaps her own reminder that that’s what music does? – ends the set.

“The ball’s in your court” she’d said, before departing, but there was no way she was getting out before an encore. Her choice of Mary Gauthier’s gospel infused “Mercy Now” was inspired too, and special mention here for the incredible Hammond of Johnny Henderson and Joe Wilkins’ guitar. They’d been sensational all night, but never better than on this.

Which leaves us where we came in, with a crescendo and a drum riser, but there’s one more thing.

I’d written on my notes for the show “Old Grey Whistle Test” and maybe that’s because I’d seen Bob Harris live last year and he’d mentioned Elles Baley, but it was more than that. This is the type of artist that would have been perfect for that show. The sort for whom music is the only thing that matters. The sort that isn’t doing this because it’s a job. It’s her life.

The true skill of Elles Bailey, though, is that such is her warmth and sense of fun that she brings everyone along on her journey.

More From Author


Popular Posts

Latest Gig Reviews

Latest Music Reviews


Band Of The Day